Chat with Aaron, telling me about the drive to school:

So my dad texted me this morning asking what kiddo wants for xmas.
I ask her on the ride to school.
She said a bag of coal and wood.
So she can make the wood black.
We spent the 1st half of the ride talking about that.
How big a bag of coal, medium sized.
What kind of wood, anything that can turn black from coal.
Does she have a plan for the wood?


This morning my first grader and I gave each other ten compliments. I tried to ‘parent’ with mine, praising her emerging qualities that I want to see her develop, like determination and persistence. Hers were simple, and very similar, all about how much she enjoys being with me, and most of them not about “things” or even “activities” but simply about my physical being — she likes cuddling with me, because I am so warm. By the seventh one I was completely in tears.

I love, love, love Brene Brown — this work is so deep and so true, and so much about human connections, things that are an incessant source of the deepest emotions.

There are a couple of things about Lhasa’s shows. First is her physical presence. Like John D.’s, her face and body are extremely expressive, and the emotions that course through them come out at you in big waves. Her tempo is different, slower and sweeter, with more ache, more melancholy. Her music expresses tremendous regret for so many things, something John’s is scrupulous about denying.

Another thing is that she tells you stories about what her songs mean (these are my loose paraphrases).

Her great-grandfather was born in Lebanon and was the youngest of eleven children. He was his mother’s favorite, and his father was very jealous. He used to practice moving very slowly and quietly to avoid his father’s anger. His father called him a devil who moved through the house like a ghost. His presence in the house caused a great fight one night, and feeling that the family would be better off without him, he used his power to make himself invisible to stow away on a ship bound for Marseilles. At the age of eleven, he found himself in that port city which opens it’s arms to all travellers. A number of years ago, Lhasa went to live in Marseilles, and walked down the same streets that her great-grandfather walked down.

Another song pounced on her one day when she sat with a paper and pen and forced her to produce the words to ‘La Confession’. She didn’t know, for a long time, what the song was about, until she remembered, about six months ago, that when she was a little girl, she did something very bad, and her two sisters saw her. They blackmailed her, threatening to tell her mother. She had to make their beds for them, and bring them toast with honey, and tie their shoes, and call them Madam. After two weeks she got tired of being her sisters’ slave, and went to her mother and confessed her crime. After that, her sisters no longer had any power over her. She told us, the audience, that the song had many la-la-las, and that they were for us. If, like her, we were guilty about what we had done, or of what we were about to do, or what we were afraid we might do, or what we were afraid other people thought we might do, then we could sings these la-la-las with her as our confession, and we would be free.

Despite aching feet and backs from standing in one spot all night in the tightly packed crowd, all of us, me, my mother, her friend, my stepfather, my boyfriend, and everyone in the audience all stamped our feet and clapped and cheered until we brought her out for an encore, and then a second encore.

The last song she played was the one I’d been waiting for all night, and I couldn’t stop crying until I was halfway home.

She said that her father was a man with many ideas, and that they would run around and around in his head for years until they were ready to come out, and then he would have a new idea. She told us that she would share one of his ideas with us. He thought that when you are conceived, you are a tiny spark in your mother’s womb, and it seems to you that you are in an infinite darkness. Then your body begins to change, and you grow. You sometimes feel shocks or hear voices from what seems to be another world. After what seems an infinite length of time, you begin to touch the walls of the world around you, and you realize that only a very thin skin separates you from the other world. When you break through, you feel such pain, and you tell yourself, My god! I am dying! but you’re not dying, you’re just passing through to something else.

Then you once again are a tiny spark in a seemingly infinite world, with an infinite stretch of time before you. Your body begins to change and grow, and you sometimes feel shocks or hear voices from another world. You begin to realize that only a think skin separates you from that world, and when you start to break through you think that you are dying.

She told us that her father did not believe we really die, and then she sang ‘Soon This Space Will Be Too Small’.

Soon this space will be too small
And I’ll go outside
To the huge hillside
Where the wild winds blow
And the cold stars shine

I’ll put my foot
On the living road
And be carried from here
To the heart of the world

I’ll be strong as a ship
And wise as a whale
And I’ll say the three words
That will save us all
And I’ll say the three words
That will save us all

Soon this space will be too small
And I’ll laugh so hard
That the walls cave in

Then I’ll die three times
And be born again
In a little box
With a golden key
And a flying fish
Will set me free

Soon this space will be too small
All my veins and bones
Will be burned to dust
You can throw me into
A black iron pot
And my dust will tell
What my flesh would not

Soon this space will be too small
And I’ll go outside
And I’ll go outside
And I’ll go outside

What a piece of work is a mom! How feeble in reason, how infinite in madhattery! In form and moving how hypochondriac and woe-is-me! In action how like an Angel, which is to say imaginary! in vindictiveness how like a god! The annoyance of the world! The Machiavelli of animals! And yet to me, what is this quintessence of parenthood? Mom delights not me; no, nor Dad neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so.

Alternatively, Shaq’s Beard

Money’s so weird, isn’t it. I was telling another friend the other day that I have this thing a lot of Americans of my socioeconomic class have where I don’t view doctors/hospitals as providers of health care, but rather as providers of economic ruin. We have had great insurance for more than a decade and the only time I have gone to the doctor was when I was pregnant, and when I was so ill I thought I was going to lose consciousness.

Lost, age 3: happiness.

Found, age 6: romantic love, in the form of a boy I met at Will Rogers Park, who didn’t speak English. Italian or Portuguese, maybe? One would hiss, pretending to be a snake, and the other would pretend to be frightened, as an excuse to hold hands.

Lost, age10: the warmth of friendship, specifically that of my two best friends, April and Trish, who defended me against Kelly, a little bastard who tried to turn my classmates against me, “She’s Iran, let’s kill her.” Even at age ten I loathed him more for his crappy English than for his violence and racism.

Found, age 17: a stuttering pride in periodically performing spectacularly in school, as a sort of nose-thumbing at the whole rotten system.

Lost, age 22: last shreds of belief in my own ability.

Found, age 26: love, for the first time in twenty years.

Lost, age 27: fear of swimming, and the sense that fears are unconquerable.

Found, age 34: hope for a second life, an adult life, shaped by my will and desire rather than my history.

Lost, age 36: the body I learned to swim in, learned to love in.

Found, age 36: a body in which to be a mother.

Lost, age 40: almost all of my books, and with them my sense of myself as the person who walked in the park, hand in hand with my first love, a person shielded and formed by books.

Found, age 43: something new. Someone new. Not sure who.


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